Published: Mon, September 04, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Cambodia Daily branded 'a thief', forced to close over tax fight

Cambodia Daily branded 'a thief', forced to close over tax fight

The government released a video on its Facebook page in which Mr Kem Sokha appeared to tell a group of supporters about a strategy to win power which he said had the support of "the Americans", rather than an immediate plot to topple Mr Hun Sen.

The Cambodia Daily, one of the country's few independent daily newspapers, announced the same day its closure after 25 years in the vanguard of the nation's free press. Kem Sokha has a long, distinguished, and internationally recognized commitment to human rights and peaceful democracy.

The English-language paper was slapped with a multi-million dollar tax bill last month, which was supposed to be paid by September 4. "And after 24 years and 15 days, the Cambodian government has destroyed The Cambodia Daily, a special and singular of part Cambodia's free press", the newspaper said in a statement Sunday.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia informs that according to a video clip broadcast on CBN (Cambodian Broadcasting Network) in Australia and other evidence collected, it clearly shows secret plans of a conspiracy between Kem Sokha, others and foreigners to harm the Kingdom of Cambodia", said a report from government-run media outlet Fresh News. If Mr Kem Sokha is found guilty of any offence, it could allow the government to shut the party down under a new law that forbids political parties from having a leader who has been convicted. Sam Rainsy remains overseas in self-imposed exile. Sen's son Hun Manith repeated the claim on Twitter. Hun Sen also warned the US and other foreign countries not to interfere in Cambodian politics.

His Cambodian People's Party won local elections in June, but the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) also did well, increasing expectations of a close contest in the coming general election.

The government appeared to have based part of its claims against Kem Sokha on a video clip that shows the opposition leader giving a public speech in which he describes a grassroots political strategy to challenge Hun Sen with U.S. support.

The English-language paper, founded by an American journalist, was known for critical coverage of issues such as corruption, human rights and the environment.

Its final headline, on the arrest of Kem Sokha, was "Descent Into Outright Dictatorship".

Last month, Cambodia expelled the Washington-based National Democratic Institute and ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting reports from the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. The Daily said the $6.3 million figure was "arbitrary" and not based on audits.

Sunday also marked the last day of publication for the Cambodia Daily after the newspaper was targeted by the government for allegedly not paying tax. The government also ordered the expulsion of the National Democratic Institute, a pro-democracy, nonprofit organization tied to the Democratic Party of the United States. He had defected from the Khmer Rouge across the border to Vietnam in the late 1970s.

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